Often, signs are the last element companies consider when planning a new space – but also the first thing a customer sees.
How do companies choose the right design? What about color, size and type? How do they choose something that accurately reflects their image?
Often, large corporations have to follow specific guidelines for their company signs and logo. But for companies that do not have those restrictions, there are many options for making the exterior of their building stand out.
Signs should include colors that are vibrant, eye-catching and that contrast well with the other hues. Any text should be large enough to see from a distance and from different angles, but also short enough to read in a few seconds. And make the effort to put a different shape for the sign’s background, such as a circle or oval to avoid the standard rectangle or square.
Signs also should evoke the emotion you want to portray, specifically one that ties into your brand and mission. People are more likely to remember a company with a sign that creates an upbeat, positive feeling or connects to them on a personal level and potentially influences behavior.
To be sure, signs are crucial to a company’s existence and livelihood and are a window to a company’s viability, reputation and atmosphere.
Those companies that have a sign built and designed with the customer in mind while capitalizing on the brand and message of the company go a long way to helping a business succeed.
“More and more people are starting to realize a sign is an extension of their brand,” said Steven Gringas, owner of Valley Wide Signs & Graphics in Allentown. “It’s really a reflection of what your business is.”
TEST OF TIME
Those in the business of making signs often want to know whether a company is simply looking to establish a visual navigation point to its location or if it wants to present a specific image.
“A lot of times, we ask them, ‘What is the reason for having a sign here?’ ” Gringas said. “Are you putting this up as part of a larger plan or do you want a sign that lets people know, ‘Here I am?’ ”
Many companies are starting to use signs as advertisements for the business.
“I think people are becoming more and more cognizant of branding,” Gringas said. “It’s harder and harder to differentiate themselves these days.”
Style trends come and go, but a solid, nice sign on a building stands the test of time, he said.
DESIGN IS KEY
All of the elements of a sign have to work in concert, and while big corporations understand how that brings brand recognition, it’s important for smaller companies, too, said Chris Heinly, owner of L&H Companies in Reading.
“The most important element in my view is the design,” he said. “That’s why it’s so incredibly important. If you start with a bad design, there’s no way to come back from that.”
Also, it pays to keep words to a minimum. People who are driving to a business for the first time and looking for a sign only have a few seconds to read it, so avoid having too many words, Heinly recommended.
“Less is more,” Gringas said. “Maybe a good, short tagline if that’s part of your identity. Go with an easy-to-read sign.”
It also helps to have good color contrast with the building, and, if possible, to avoid the common square or rectangle shape.
Doing so will help the sign stand out from the rest.
When companies brand themselves consistently, customers quickly get to know who they are, so it is beneficial for businesses to choose colors and styles on their signs that are consistent with their brand.
Well-constructed signs also help people find their way, particularly if your business is in a large campus or institution setting.
“Depending on how big the institution is, wayfinding would be the first thing we would identify,” said Randy Seaman of Bartush Signs in Orwigsburg.
As an example, his company completed signage for Alvernia University in Reading, which included wayfinding, or helping people to navigate the campus.
His company also created the signs for the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks campus in Bethlehem, including for the PBS-39 building.
L&H Companies has an 80,000 square-foot-manufacturing facility in Reading that employs nearly 100 workers. His company educates its clients on the importance of a good design, he said.
“So often, those decisions are made in a conference room,” Heinly said.
However, executives need to get out of the conference room and see where the sign would go on the building. They should look at the distance from the entry point of the parking lot; see how it would relate to pedestrian traffic and the speed of cars on the road. These are all factors to consider when determining how to design a sign.
“A lot of people, when they start a business, they don’t realize how important it is,” Heinly said.
Hospitals, banks and bigger companies are well aware of what type of signs they need.
Others need more guidance and suggestions, according to Natalie Bartush of Bartush Signs.
“You want to work with your client to create something that captures the eye or captures the image of the business,” Bartush said. “Buying a sign is one of the most lasting investments you will make. You’ve got to look beyond price to look at materials. Inexpensive may be inexpensive up front but may be a heartbreak later.”
Bartush and Seaman said they are honest with customers if a concept for a sign will not ultimately work and they try to offer other options.
Other things that customers should keep in mind for their building signs is to determine what’s permitted by the municipality, since a sign company will not create a sign that can’t be built and installed.
The time it takes to build a sign depends not only on the size, scope and materials but how soon a permit is acquired.
Large jobs often can take more than 12 weeks to complete.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
L&H Companies recently completed a sign project for Grove Dental Group in Wyomissing.
Heinly said the dental office reported seeing 100 new patients per month in the first three months of opening. Almost 70 percent of these new clients said the signage is what brought them in the door, Heinly said.
“Not everybody has that steep of a result,” Heinly said. “The No. 1 return on your investment is always signage, especially when you look at advertising for radio and TV. It is your visible presence to everyone that you have a business.”
CREATING A FEELING
Signs also are important because they trigger emotion in potential customers and motivate their behavior.
“It reinforces your brand but it also is the opportunity to create a feeling or association of what type of business you are, and that is what draws the customer in,” Heinly said.
Bartush Signs has a manufacturing facility on-site that builds all types of signs, including everything from corporate desk nameplates to giant billboards. Last year, it completed a project for Bell & Evans hatchery in Lebanon County featuring a sign on the side of its building in the shape of a giant golden egg in mid-hatch.
Companies also should keep in mind that signs need maintenance, as they are in the elements in all types of weather.
“They seem to forget that it’s an investment over time,” Seaman said. “How much are we going to spend for the life of it?”
Signs are combination of a retail and construction project, Bartush said, noting that they often require masonry work, electrical and other trades.
Companies also should look for warranties for their signs and ask to tour the manufacturing plant, she added.